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Stop Making Sense
Those drawings on the cover of November’s Poetry are of chairs.
The chairs are drawn by David Byrne.
Why did David Byrne draw chairs?
Well, they have arms and legs and vaguely human scale—and shape. They’re people—they hold you, support you, elevate you or humble you. They’re funny or elegant, funky or gorgeous, social or aloof. They’re characters with lives and histories…aren’t they?
Apparently David Byrne can do anything. Visit his website and you will discover that he is his own brand of art. “I think of myself as a poet who works in every medium available, pretty much except poetry,” he says.
For me poetry is very important although I rarely ever write poetry. I think poetry can be expressed through music, through dance, through film or a photograph or any other medium. To me it’s all a form of poetics, even if you never write it down as a poem.
He was influenced early on by Kurt Schwitters’s Ursonate, as was writing partner and producer Brian Eno. Byrne remembers hearing an old recording of the sound poem: “It struck me as very musical, very rhythmic…almost funky…very funny and very entertaining. It was one of the first times I had heard the musicality of ‘language’ made so explicit.”
But it was Eno who suggested that Byrne use Hugo Ball’s sound poem, “Gadji beri bimba,” as the lyrics for the opening track of The Talking Heads’ third album, Fear of Music. As Eno put it: “Since everyone just ignores the words anyway, it makes no difference if they are meaningless.”
On the release of the album, Byrne performed the hit song drawn from Hugo Ball, “I Zimbra,” on the David Letterman show.
During the interview after, Letterman puzzled over the words that made no sense. Byrne assured him, “well they do, but not if you try and figure them out.”
That’s poetry for you!